Hearing scheduled Wednesday for teen Missouri murder suspect

Wednesday, November 18, 2009 | 10:15 a.m. CST; updated 3:54 p.m. CST, Wednesday, November 18, 2009

JEFFERSON CITY — A judge was to consider Wednesday whether the 15-year-old suspect in the slaying of a 9-year-old mid-Missouri girl found in the woods two days after she went missing should be prosecuted as an adult.

The teenager, whose name and gender have not been released by police, is accused of first-degree murder in the death of Elizabeth Olten. Law officers said the teen led them to Elizabeth's body in a wooded area in St. Martins, which is west of Jefferson City.

The teen has been held in juvenile custody since last month. Cole County Judge Jon Beetem was scheduled to hear arguments Wednesday on whether the teen should be prosecuted as an adult.

Under Missouri law, children as young as 12 can be charged as adults with first-degree murder. Ten factors are considered in deciding how to treat juveniles accused of crimes. All must be evaluated, but Beetem does not need to weigh them equally.

Among the factors: the seriousness of the crime; whether viciousness, force or violence was involved; whether people or property were affected; the suspect's criminal record and background; the individual's age, sophistication and maturity.

Court officials have planned extra security measures for Wednesday's hearing, which is open to the public. Cell phones, laptop computers, tape recorders and cameras all have been banned from the courthouse and those who attend the hearing can't re-enter the courtroom once it has started. Law officers at a security checkpoint in the court basement will be screening more items.

Hundreds of people searched for Elizabeth after she did not return on Oct. 21 from a neighbor's house about a quarter mile away. Searchers twice had checked the area where her body was found two days later, but the Cole County Sheriff's Department said Elizabeth had been well concealed.

Authorities have released few additional details, including how Elizabeth died. Cole County Sheriff Greg White said the 15-year-old was contacted after unspecified written evidence was obtained. Law officers have not said how it is believed Elizabeth encountered the teen or where it is believed that she was killed.

White has said that Elizabeth and the 15-year-old were acquainted but not relatives.

Elizabeth was a fourth-grader who baked cookies, worked puzzles with her mother and liked playing dress-up with her animals, according to her obituary. Elizabeth also enjoyed music, and her favorite musicians were Taylor Swift and the character Hannah Montana.

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